Healthy living * Weight loss

Salt levels in foods need to be cut further

Foods Standards Agency sets new targets for salt reduction in everyday foods

New salt reduction targets for 80 different categories of food have been released by the UK Food Standards Agency.

Eating too much salt in our food is a well known risk factor for high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to heart disease and stroke. According to the Department of Health, an estimated 20,000 lives could be saved each year, if our daily salt intake was reduced to 6g/day.

Recent figures from 2008 estimate our average daily salt intake in the UK to be 8.6g compared with 9.7g in 2001. Although this shows that people are now eating less salt, its still way short of the 6g of salt /day target.

Almost 75% of the salt in our diet is already present in foods we buy such as bread, cereals, meat products, pizzas, ready meals and savoury snacks, and it's these everday foods in particular the FSA want to see further salt reductions in.

The Agency recognised that food manufacturers had reduced the salt levels in their foods, but found levels "varied considerably" between products, and said there was "clearly scope for some parts of industry to do more."

Rosemary Hignett, Head of Nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said:

‘The UK is leading the way in Europe and beyond in salt reduction. The reductions which have already been achieved in the UK are already saving lives. To continue to make progress we have set 2012 targets at levels that will make a further real impact on consumers’ intakes, whilst taking into account technical and safety issues associated with taking salt out of food.’

'The public health case for reducing the amount of salt in people’s diets to 6g a day is as strong as ever.'

The charity Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) welcomed the new targets and in a statement said :

We should not lose sight of the reason why the food industry is being asked to reduce our salt intake - salt puts up our blood pressure, which in turn increases our risk of stroke or heart disease. For every 1g of salt removed from our average daily intake, almost 7,000 lives could be saved per year and a further 7,000 non-fatal heart attacks and strokes could be prevented. At the moment, the UK is leading the world in salt reduction and the fact that our average salt intake has dropped to 8.6g per day means that many thousands of lives are already being saved.

Recommended salt intake

The daily recommended *maximum *intake of salt is lower for children than for adults, and depends on the child’s age:

  • 1 to 3 years – 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
  • 4 to 6 years – 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
  • 7 to 10 years – 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
  • 11 and over – 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)

Food labelling

It's the sodium present in salt (sodium chloride) which can significantly increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Some food manufacturers print the sodium content on food labels which can be confusing if you are trying to limit your daily intake of salt to 6g/day. As salt is forty per cent sodium, to convert grams of sodium to grams of salt multiply the sodium content by 2.5. The new figure can then be compared with the 6g/day target recommended by the FSA.

This article was published on Tue 19 May 2009

Image © Tomasz Trojanowski -

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